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The major is stoic and despite the fact that he doesn't think his hand will ever be repaired, he returns to his physical treatment each day. The narrator says the major does not believe in bravery nor in the machines used to treat him. The major has the demeanor of a professional soldier. He is dignified but also very skeptical and cynical about war and dwells on the fact that, in life, we risk losing the things we love. He warns the narrator not to marry especially if he is a soldier fighting in a war. "He should not place himself in a position to lose." The major then reveals that his wife has just died. The narrator watches as the soldier starts crying but still acts dignified. "And then crying, his head up looking at nothing, carrying himself straight and soldierly, with tears on both his cheeks and biting his lips, he walked past the machines and out the door."
The major has lost so much. He confronts the notion that life is meaningless. But something makes him continue to use the machines. Something makes him look out the window. Is he looking out the window as a distraction or because he is in a daze of grief? Or, is he looking for something, anything on the horizon that could offer him a new perspective. One of the themes in Modernism is the rejection of worldviews like the Enlightenment which suppose great optimism for the world. Following World War I, many modernists rejected this optimism. This story illustrates that modernist skepticism. But the major's vague determination and dignity supposes some hope, or, at least it supposes that a hero should face tragedy with as much honor as he/she can. Hemingway admired the man who could show courage in an age or during an event that promised little hope.
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